You can purchase tomato seeds and start them indoors well, or you can buy established plants about the time the soil is warm enough to put them directly into the ground. But there’s a third easy option to grow tomatoes most people probably don’t know. This way will use the ripe fruit you already have in your kitchen.
1. Prep planting containers
Start by collecting planting containers and potting mix. These containers will only be used for germinating seeds, so they will work better if they are wider to provide more space. They don’t need to be very deep because the roots won’t grow down very much. Add potting mix to the containers, filling them about three-quarters full.
2. Slice ripe tomatoes
Got a tomato that’s just a little too ripe to really enjoy? Perfect. If not, get one that’s close enough to be ripe and get started. Cut it into slices about one-fourth inch thick. The slices don’t have to be pretty or even.
3. Plant tomato slices
Place the thinly sliced tomatoes in a single layer across the top of the soil, leaving just a little space between them. Barely cover them with a fine layer of the potting mix and water well. Keep the container in partial shade with the potting soil moist but not oversaturated.
4. Transplant tomato seedlings
Tomato seeds will typically germinate within eight to 10 days of planting. Once they germinate, move them to an area with full sun for 10 to 12 hours per day to keep the seedlings from becoming leggy. Approximately two weeks after planting, the seedlings will be big enough to transplant into individual pots. Bury the stem as deep into the potting soil as possible and tamp the mix gently around the base of the stem. Water well.
5. Let plants grow
Tomato plants will take anywhere from 50 to 80-plus days to reach maturation from planting. This depends on the variety and the area’s growing conditions. To ensure proper growth, make sure plants get plenty of sunlight, the potting soil has adequate moisture, and plants are fertilized periodically to replace nutrients absorbed by the plant.
Water deeply and regularly while the fruits are developing. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least 1 inch of water per week, but during hot, dry spells, they may need more. If your plants start to look wilted for most of the day, give them a drink.
After the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, for better flavor.
Within a few months, you’ll have delicious tomatoes to harvest and enjoy.
6. Pinch and Prune for More Tomatoes
Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant.
However, go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin out a few leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes. Fewer leaves will mean fewer sweet tomatoes.
7. Getting Your Tomato Plants to Set Tomatoes
Tomatoes’ ripening is pretty much at the mercy of the weather, but sometimes we can help things along. Pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer will encourage indeterminate tomatoes (those with fruit available continuously) to start putting their energy into flowering.
Indeterminate tomatoes like to grow tall before they start setting fruits, so don’t be alarmed if your tomato plants aren’t flowering for their first month or two. Pinching is also a handy trick toward the end of the summer when you want the last tomatoes to hurry up and ripen.
It shouldn’t be a problem getting determinate tomatoes (those that ripen all at once) to set fruit unless weather conditions are unfavorable and cause a condition aptly named “blossom drop.”